Friday, November 17, 2023

American Masters Marathoners at Berlin--Fall 2023

 November 15, 2023 Each fall there is a major focus on marathons in Berlin, Chicago, and New York, three of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors. With the formalization of the Abbott WMM and accompanying incentives, the number of strong American Masters marathoners participating in overseas marathons such as Berlin has soared. This recap focuses on Berlin. 

BERLIN MARATHON The first of the three fall majors took place on September 24th. The weather was favorable, with temps in the mid 50'sF, relative humidity at 76%, partially cloudy with moderate winds, W 3mph.

Everyone with even a fleeting interest in marathons, heard of the astounding new Women's World Record of 2:11:53 set by Tigst Assefa Ethiopia and the record 5th win, at 2:02:42, in the Men's race by Eliud Kipchoge Kenya. This marked a return to form for Kipchoge, widely acknowledged as the G.O.A.T Marathoner, who encountered an uncharacteristically difficult time at Boston.

Annie Frisbee finished 17th, the top American woman in 2:27:02. Frisbie broke into the marathon ranks with her sterling 7th place debut at the NYC Marathon in 2:26:18. Jacqueline Gaughan was six seconds back in 18th. This was Gaughan's 3rd marathon this year, with each one faster than the last: 2:34:37 at Chevron Houston in January, 2:31:38 at the Ottawa International Marathon in May, and now this 2:27:08! Jane Bereikas claimed the 3rd American spot at 2:29:00, taking 21st overall. Bareikas has also enjoyed a run up in marathon times from a 2:33:26 at Grandma's in June 2022, to a 2:30:04 at Valencia in December 2022, and now this marathon a minute faster.

Teshone Mekonen, comparatively unknown, finished as top American man, in 24th at 2:10:16. He ran 2:11:05 at the Chevron Houston Marathon this past January but has not run at Boston, Chicago or New York. He was followed by Rio Olympian, Jared Ward, 27th in 2:11:44. Tyler Pennel, who finished 5th in the 2016 USA Olympic Marathon Trials, was 3rd American, and 39th overall, in 2:14:28.

The focus of the article is on American Masters athletes who entered the Berlin Marathon and ran a top time. For the most part, the top three Americans in each of the 5-year Age Divisions are identified. Occasionally an athlete with a US connection or an athlete who was very close to being in the top 3 is mentioned as well. One American Record AR was set, along with one near AR, and two other solid attempts, one of which earned an age grade over 96%. Note: The finishing place overall, counting all competitors from all nations is given after the athlete's time in square brackets [x]. All Masters times below are net, not gun unless specified otherwise. The race results only give a 5-year division, not a single age, for the competitors. If I list an age grade without comment, it is because I have the athlete's age from another source. Otherwise, I qualify it with a statement like "Under the assumption that the athlete is still 43...." I always list age grade scores, Performance Level Percentages PLP's, for the division winner but after that it varies, and usually only if 80% or higher.

MEN 40-44 Anthony Johnson Tracksmith Boston Hares, Jeff Schuler Boulder Track Club, and Jake Stout Portland Running Club started in the 9:15 to 9:16 range, with Johnson going off at 9:15:27, with Stout crossing the start line 8 seconds later, with another 12 seconds passing before Schuler crossed the starting line. Stout recaptured that 8 seconds very quickly, hitting the 10 Km mark at 34:27, a minute and a half faster than Johnson and over 2 minutes ahead of Schuler. Stout built that margin over the next 30 Km to a height of 6:23 at 40K. Stout gave back a half minute to Johnson in the last 2.195 km but he had sealed 1st American well before that. Stout's 2:26:32 [12] finished over 5 minutes ahead of the 2nd American. Stout, like many other Marathoners participate in Cross Country. Stout was the lead runner for Team Red Lizard at the 2021 and 2022 editions of the USATF Club Cross Country Championships leading them to 10th and then 9th place team finishes. He finished 46th of 242 starters in Tallahassee in 2021 and improved to 35th of 334 starters in 2022 at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Given his age of 42, Stout's 2:26:32 age grades at 86.98%. 

Johnson and Schuler had a real duel to be 2nd American. With the 20 second difference in starting times, Johnson may have been completely unaware that Schuler was pressing him for the honor. Johnson created a half minute gap in the first 10 Km, and gradually build it to its largest extent at the Half Marathon mark. Johnson's 1:15:46 was 45 seconds faster than Schuler's time. That net time gap shrunk to 40 seconds by 30 Km and had turned into an 8 second deficit by the 40 Km mark. But because Johnson had started 20 seconds ahead of Schuler, he passed the 40 km timing mat 12 seconds before Schuler did. Schuler kept the pressure on, but Johnson had a faster final 2.195 kilometers, wiping out the deficit so that he finished 20 seconds before Schuler did and their net times were exactly the same at 2:32:12. The Marathon listed Johnson as [37] and Schuler as [38]. But they should be viewed as tying for 2nd American on net time. 

Jeff Schuler right #34396 on the streets of Berlin in 2023 on his way to a top 3 American 40-44 finish Photo Credit: FB post by J Schuler

Mark Guyer Indiana Elitewho finished 3rd overall at the 2023 USATF Masters Road Mile Championships in 4:33, showed impressive range in finishing 5th American in 2:38:13 [83]. 

Jake Stout 2:26:32     Anthony Johnson 2:32:12     Jeff Schuler 2:32:12

45-49 Three of Schuler's Boulder TC teammates were in this division; perhaps they entered as a team. Or perhaps they entered two teams of two, hoping all 4 would get in...and they did! I understand that if you enter Berlin as a 2-3 person team, then if any one of the teammates is selected in the lottery, the other teammates are accepted also at the same time. And then, if you are well matched, you get to run with your teammates in the early going, sometimes up through the first half of the race. That must make the memories extra special! Benjamin Cowan, Chaiwat Engtrakul, and Aaron Kleinman just had to sort out their finishing order to see who the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd 45-49 Americans would be. They must have lined up as a group but somehow Engtrakul went across the start line 4 seconds ahead of the other three. That difference would have no impact on final standings though. They were still close together at the 10 Km mark, which Cowen hit in 36:25, with Kleinman and Engtrakul within 4 and 11 seconds respectively. Cowan crossed 20K at 1:12:34, with 17 seconds on Kleinman and 47 on Engtrakul, the only one of the three who would achieve a negative split. They crossed the halfway mat at 1:16:33, 1:16:45, and 1:17:24 in the same order. Kleinman moved 19 seconds ahead of Cowan by 30 Km but Engtrakul was still 42 seconds back. Engtrakul had made the catch by the time they reached the other side of the 'Wall' at 40Km. At 2:25:58, he had 7 seconds on Kleinman and 1:48 on Cowan. Engtrakul put a few more meters on his teammates in the final stretch, clocking 2:33:47 [8]. But all three had fine races, coming in under 2:40, with Kleinman 2:34:28 [14] and Cowan 2:36:07 [21]. You can imagine the team celebration! Another four minutes, and George Darden, a member of the Atlanta Track Club, who was there without teammates, finished 4th American at 2:40:50 [59]. Kleinman and Engtrakul finished 4th and 20th respectively in this division at the 2022 USATF Masters 5 Km Championships in Boulder CO. Cowan, at 40, merited an 80.37 age grade, Kleinman at 46, enjoyed an age grade of 85.28. Engtrakul, a year older, earned an 86.40%.

Chaiwat Engtrakul 2:33:47     Aaron Kleinman 2:34:28     Benjamin Cowan 2:36:07

50-54 Stephen Thoma, and Steven Warnick crossed the starting line at 9:16:07 and 9:16:02, respectively, followed by Eric Hunziker at 9:17:00. Thoma wasted no time in making up the 5 seconds between Warnick and him. By the 10 Km mark, Thoma was 1:02 ahead on net time, 37:40 to 38:42, and crossed the 10 Km mat 57 seconds before Warnick did. Warnick and Hunziker enjoyed the same net time through 10K at 38:42. Thoma steadily but gradually built his lead over that trailing duo, raising it to 1:59 by the halfway mat and to 2:14 at the 40 Km mat. Thoma gave back 7seconds in the final 2.195 Km, but still enjoyed a margin of victory over the 2nd American, amounting to 2:07 on his 2:44:09 [27]. From Athlinks it is clear that Thoma is at least 52. If that was his age at the time, Thoma's age grade was 84.54%, higher if he had turned 53. Warnick hit the HM mat at 1:21:48, nine seconds faster than Hunziker. But that was the height of Warnick's advantage on net time. Hunziker reached the 30 Km mat three seconds faster than Warnick and 40 Km 55 seconds faster. At that point, because of the initial 58 second difference in starting times, Warnick would have been unaware of Hunziker except in the abstract sense of the possibility of someone closing in on you as you slow down over the last kilometers of the marathon. Since Hunziker did, indeed, finish as second American 1:14 ahead of Warnick in 2:46:16 [34], the capture presumably came shortly after the 40 km mark; it was too late in the race for Warnick to respond. 

Steven Warnick celebrating after his 2:47:30 PR and 3rd 50-54 American at the 2023 Berlin Marathon Photo Credit: Posted on FB+ by S Warnick

Warnick was 3rd American at 2:47:30 [44]; it was his PR.

Stephen Thoma 2:44:09     Eric Hunziker 2:46:16     Steven Warnick 2:47:30

55-59 The top three Americans in M55 were more spread out in their starting times. Thomas Tayeri Peninsula Distance Club started at 9:15:37, followed 1:17 later by Kan Mi Minnesota Snow Wolves, and another 3:04 later by Harold Evensen. There was enough difference in splits and final times that we can presume each ran his own race in his own time, largely unaware of the others. Tayeri ran his first 10 Km in 38:32, over a minute faster than Evensen and over 2 minutes faster than Mi. Tayeri widened those gaps with every passing kilometer, finishing as first American in 2:45:41 [7], over 4:30 ahead of Evensen and over 6 minutes ahead of Mi. 

Tom Tayeri on his way to a 1st American finish in 55-59 at the 2023 Berlin Marathon Photo C+redit: Posted to Strava by T Tayeri

Evensen was 2:12 faster than Mi to the 30 Km mat, but gave back 26 seconds in the next 10 km, but only 2 more seconds in the final 2.195 kilometers. Evensen claimed the 2nd American finish at 2:50:16 [15], with Mi 3rd American at 2:51:50 [18]. Tayeri, who had finished 2nd in the 2022 USATF Masters 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento in 58:05, was 58 at Berlin. Tayeri's age grade was a nifty 88.46%.

Thomas Tayeri 2:45:41     Harold Evensen 2:50:16     Kan Mi 2:51:50

60-64 Rick Lee Shore Athletic Club announced in advance that he would be trying to break Brian Pilcher's American 60-64 Record of 2:42:42, set at Chicago in 2016. He acknowledged that it would be very difficult. His fastest Marathon time in the last two years was this past April at Boston when he ran 2:46:36. Could he shave 4 minutes off that time? He was game to try. His A goal was the record; his B goal was 2:45. His C goal, he joked in a Strava post, 'make it to the beer tent!' 

As is customary for Lee, he did not allow himself to taper into the marathon completely. A week before Berlin, he raced in the USATF Masters 12 Km Championship, finishing 2nd to Nat Larson, who broke the American Record in that race. Lee's 43:25 allowed him to finish 2nd in age grading (behind Larson) with a 92.40%, not exactly your typical beginning to the last week of a taper. 

Rick Lee far left/reversed cap leading a group of 50's and 60's runners in the USATF Masters 12 Km Championships a week before Berlin Photo Credit: Jason Timochko

Lee loves to race and loves to challenge himself! This calendar year he has competed in a cross country championship over 8 km, road races from 1 Mile to the Marathon; and on the track at distances from 800M to 10,000M and the 2000M steeplechase. Lee is also the current 50Km and 50 Mile American Record holder in the 60-64 division. Lee needed to click of 38:33 10K's [6:12/mile] to get the record. When he crossed the 10K mat in 39:16, he must have realized the record might elude him. Could he speed up over the next ten kilometers? Yes, but not by enough to get back on track for the record. His 39:04 on the 2nd 10K leg left him at 1:18:20 at 20K. He needed to be at 1:17:06. He was 1:15 off the record pace at the halfway mark, at 1:22:36. He had made a good effort but paid the price. A Brit, Nigel Rackham, was 1:17 back at the halfway point but would soon be making inroads. Lee was still 51 seconds ahead at 30 Km but that is when fatigue can really slow down a marathoner, and Lee must have been tired. Lee reported that he had been running with Jacob Nur (see 65-69 below) but had to let him go after mile 17 [about 27 Km). It took Lee over 43 minutes to run the 10 Km from 30K to 40K; Rackham's net time was over three minutes faster than Lee's at the 40K and he wound up taking 1st in 2:46:40. Lee struggled home, 1st American, but 2nd overall in 2:51:46 [2]. His attempt at the record probably cost him the win. But Lee definitely got his C goal! In fact, he took a train down to Munich, with some marathoner friends, the next day, for a taste of Oktoberfest. At 62, Lee's time earned an 88.65% PLP.

The 2nd American at Berlin, a fine runner in his own right, was Iain Mickle SRA Elite. Mickle started more slowly than Lee, running the first half three minutes slower on net time than Lee, in 1:25:58. Later in the race, he started to cut down Lee's lead, but it still stood at 2:25 when Mickle crossed the finish line with a finishing net time of 2:54:11 [4]

Iain Mickle Photo Credit:

Lee is a regular these days on the USATF Masters circuit. With relatively few races on the West Coast, Mickle has competed more sparingly. In 2022 he finished 2nd at the 10 Km Championships in Sacramento in 59:57. In December of last year, he finished 13th in 60-64 at the highly competitive Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco. He also ran 2:53:42, finishing 1st 60-64 at CIM last December. Mickle, also 62, earned an 87.42% age grade. Rami Ghandour and Paul Giuliano had a duel to finish as 3rd American but did not see each other during the race. Ghandour started a minute and 8 seconds after Giuliano. Giuliano went out faster and built a lead of 1:46 by the time he crossed the halfway mat, in a net time of 1:29:42. That was the zenith of his lead. Ghandour gradually whittled away at Giuliano's lead. By the time he crossed the 40 Km mat, Giuliano's net time lead was just 15 seconds. Ghandour ran the final 2.195 km 38 seconds faster than Giuliano, finishing as 3rd American in 3:01:48 [16] . When Giuliano finished with his net of 3:02:11 [17], it would be 45 seconds in real time before Ghandour would cross the finish line. Ghandour had won their duel but probably neither saw the other during the race.

Rick Lee 2:51:46     Iain Mickle 2:54:11     Rami Ghandour 3:01:48

65-69 Jacob Nur SRA Elite had taken on an even tougher challenge than Lee. Clive Davies must have been a heck of a runner. In September 1981, when Davies was 66, he ran a 2:42:49 Marathon in Eugene OR. That is the American Record that Nur took aim at. That was only 7 seconds off the 60-64 record that Lee was shooting for. As noted, he ran with Rick Lee for that reason; they needed about the same pace. Nur is not known as well for his marathons as Lee is but Nur is no stranger to the marathon. He has run a number of sub-3-hour marathons. In 2018 he ran 2:47:43 at the California International Marathon, generally considered a fast marathon because of its elevation drop from start to finish. The Boston Marathon, unless temps are in the upper 40's with a tailwind from the southwest, is considered a much tougher marathon. It also has an elevation drop but the offset is the Newton Hills! In April of 2022, Nur ran 2:45:21 at Boston. Like Lee, Nur was game to try! Running together could help. As noted, they ran together for the first 17 miles. Through that point they were about 2 minutes off the split they needed for the records they targeted. Lee, as noted, skied to over 43 minutes for the ten K from 30K to 40K. Nur did better but could not keep it under 40 minutes. Nur achieved something Lee just missed, however, that was an Age Division win at Berlin. His 2:47:30 [1] left him over ten minutes ahead of Boyan Lefterov of Bulgaria, the 2nd place finisher. 

Jacob Nur heading for the finish line and a mew American 65-69 Record in the Ten Mile Run at the 2022 USATF Masters Ten Mile Championships in Sacramento CA Photo Credit: C+ourtesy of Sacramento Running Associatiion SRA

Like Mickle, Nur has competed a bit more sparingly than Lee on the USATF Masters circuit, but he has won a few USATF Age Division championships in the last few years. He also owns four 65-69 American Records at distances from 5 Km to 10 Miles. At age 68, Nur's time earned a terrific 96.56% age grade score.

The other contenders for top 3 Americans were far off of Nur's pace but their net times were close to each other. Starting 14 minutes apart, the two were in different parts of the crowd of runners. Dennis Hosue, who ran 3:41:10 at Bostin this past April, had a faster first half, 1:39:38, than Luogang Wei Phire, 1:40:00. Wei had run much faster at Boston, clocking 3:21:09. The 2nd half belonged to Wei who finished as 2nd American in 3:20:46 [11], with Hosue 3rd American in 3:22:23 [16].

Jacob Nur 2:47:30     Luogang Wei 3:20:46     Dennis Hosue 3:22:23

70-74 There were no record attempts in this division. Steve Yee Fleet Feet Racing started at 9:24:50, followed 4 minutes later by Eduardo Matsuo Ann Arbor Track Club. Barry Wallman started 36 minutes later. Matsuo hit the 10 Km mat in 52:00, wiping out 1:45 of Yee's head start. By the time Matsuo hit the halfway mark in 1:49:44, he was 3:29 ahead of Yee on net time, so only 26 seconds behind him on the course. The catch was not made until somewhere between 25 and 30K. By the 30K mat, Matsuo was 5:26 ahead on net time, so a minute and a half ahead of Yee on the course. Matsuo took 1st American by over 16 minutes in 3:40:07 [8]. Matsuo was active for Ann Arbor between 2014 and 2018; his race in 2018 helped Ann Arbor to the 3rd place team finish at the 2018 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championship. 

Eduardo Matsuo competing for the Ann Arbor Track Club 60+ Team at the 2018 USATF Masters Half marathon Championships, hosted by the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run Photo Credit: FB post by E Matsuo

Even though Yee and Wallman never saw each other on the course, they had a spirited competition. Yee got out to a 5:37 lead on net time at 30K. But Wallman took 1:26 out of that lead in the next `10K and another 2:36 in the final 2.195 km. Yee must have been hurting, but he held strong to the end and Wallman ran out of pavement. Yee finished 2nd in 3:56:19 [14], with Wallman a minute and a half back as 3rd American in 3:57:54 [16].

Eduardo Matsuo 3:40:07     Steve Yee 3:56:19     Barry Wallman 3:57:54

75-79 Gene Dykes Greater Philadelphia Track Club knew he was not in shape for an assault on the World 75-79 Marathon mark held by the legend, Ed Whitlock, at 3:04:54. The health problem that had slowed him down for the last year and a bit, seemed to be gone; his training had returned to the level where he could contemplate going for the American Record. Warren Utes set the current record of 3:18:10 at the Chicago Marathon in 1995. Utes was an amazing runner. He still holds the 70-74 American records for 5 Km 18:01 and 8 Km 30:25, as well as the 75-79 records, at all of the standard road distances, from the 5 Km up through the Marathon. Dykes, and his coach, knew what they had to do. In terms of the split times provided by the race, Dykes had to run each 10K segment under 47:00. For perspective, the 2nd place time in the 2023 USATF Masters 10 Km Championships, for 75-79, was only 4 seconds faster. Dykes was ready. He hit the 10 Km mat in 45:55, putting over a minute in the bank. The next 10K was a 46:29; another half minute in the bank. Dykes's half marathon time was 1:37:28, a minute and a half ahead of record pace. But the 10K from 20 to 30 was his first over 47 minutes. He had to withdraw 13 seconds from the bank. From 30K to 40K he needed another 26 seconds. But he was still 57 seconds ahead of record pace with just over 2K to go! Would he make it?! As he put it in an email to me a few days after the race, "The finish line was in sight and then I pulled up lame with a cramp with 300 yards to go."  His time of 3:18:23 [1] was a noble effort but was ten seconds above the record. Dykes, like Lee, in 60-64 above, was already planning on running Chicago in two weeks. He finished his note with: "'Stronger for Chicago or more tired? Find out soon!" 

Gene Dykes left/white cap leading some younger runners around a turn one week before the Berlin Marathon -- at the 2023 USATF Masters 12 Km Championships, hosted by USATF-NJ's By Hook Or By Crook Run Photo Credit: Jason Timochko

Dykes and Nur were the only two American men to win their age division outright over all competitors from all nations. Dykes loves to race. In the weeks and months leading up to Berlin, he raced over 5K, a 50 Mile Trail race, the 5000M, 10,000M and 2,000M Steeplechase at the Masters Outdoor Championships and the 12 km Championships on the roads in Highlands NJ. Dykes won that last national championship mentioned by over 4 minutes, ahead of a very fast field. A week later he was setting off on his 26.2-mile journey through the streets of Berlin. At age 75, Dykes's 3:18:23 age grades at 88.96%.

Bruce Brown ran a strong race as well but was not competitive with Dykes. Few are. Brown ran 3:33:57 [2] to give American men their only 1-2 finish in a division. Brown was 75 when he ran 3:47:40 at Boston in 2022. Under the assumption that Brown was 76 at Berlin, his time age grades to an 83.89%. Augusto Lastimosa finished as 3rd American in a time of 4:30:45 [9].

Gene Dykes 3:18:23     Bruce Brown 3:33:57     Augusto Lastimosa 4:30:45

80 and Up--No Americans

WOMEN 40-44 Allison Lerer and Meghann Featherstun had a tight battle to be first American but may have been unaware of it at the time. Lerer started at 9:16:13, with Williams starting 39 seconds later. Fetherstun's net time was faster over the first 20 Km, 1:20:24 to 1:20:58, but Lerer was still 5 seconds ahead of Featherstun on the course. Would Featherstun have recognized Lerer as an American rival or vice versa? That was as close as Featherstun got. Her pace fell relative to Lerer's soon after that. Between 20K and 30K, Lerer gained 27 seconds of net time on Featherstun. After that it looked like it would be clear sailing for Lerer as she gained another 25 seconds in the next 10K to lead Featherstun on net time by 18 seconds with 2 kilometers to go. But with the end at hand, Featherstun found she could speed up, lowering her pace from 4:04/km to 3:54/km [about 6:15/mile] on the final 2.195 km. At the same time, Lerer was keeping her pace fairly steady, dropping it very slightly from 4:03/km to 4:02/km [about 6:24/mi]. It is possible the final 2-second difference on net time, came about mostly with the finish line clearly in sight! Lerer had just enough of an edge to take the first American honor in 2:49:53 [8], with Featherstun 2 seconds back on net time, in 2:49:55 [9]

Meghann Fetherstun after the Berlin Marathon and her being the 2nd 40-44 American woman to finish Photo Credit: Strava post-M Fetherstun

It was not a battle to the finish line in the normal sense of that term. After Lerer crossed the finish line, it was 41 seconds before Featherstun crossed it. 

Lerer achieved the 1st American finish with a negative split 2:49:53 [8] off of a 1:25:19 half marathon split. As a 38-year-old in 2021, she finished 5th overall at the AJC Peachtree Road Race in a sparkling 37:01. Her marathon attempt at Chicago last fall was less successful at 3:01:47. As a likely 40-year-old, Lerer's Berlin age grade would be 80.84%. Featherstun ran a 1:21:24 Half Marathon in Houston in January and followed with a 2:52:14 effort in Boston. Featherstun was 40 at Berlin; her age grade was 80.82%. 

The battle to be 3rd American was close. Two women finished within 18 seconds of each other on net time. Julia Roman-Duval started at 9:15:09; Natasha Bliss at 9:16:08. Roman Duval had the faster first 10K at 39:00. Because she started early and ran fast over most of the distance, the only American runner to actually pass her on the course, was Lerer, who did so between 30 and 40 km. Natasha Bliss San Diego Track Club was Roman-Duval's closest rival. Less than a minute behind Roman-Duval at the 10 Km mat, Bliss was still within 2 minutes on net time at the halfway mat. Bliss started to make real headway between the half marathon and 30K and made the catch just before the 40K mark, on net time. Bliss went on to finish 3rd American at 2:52:44 [12] ahead of Roman-Duval whose 2:53:02 [14] made her the fourth American. 

Natasha Bliss demonstrates her range by finishing on the Masters podium at the 2022 Carlsbad 5000 Photo Credit: FB post by N Bliss

Since Roman-Duval started 1:03 ahead of Bliss, the two never saw each other during the race. At 42 years of age, Bliss's 2:52:44 merits an 80.56% age grade. Bliss is also a talented Cross Country runner; she finished 8th overall at the Club Cross Championships in San Francisco, helping her team to the win in the 40+ division. 

Allison Lerer 2:49:53     Meghann Featherstun 2:49:55     Natasha Bliss 2:52:44 

45-49 Laura HeintzKelly Griffin, and Lindsay Wilkins started at 9:16:06, 9:16:30, and 9:17:27. Griffin made up the 24-second head start of Heintz in the first 10K crossing the mat with a net time of 40:42, 58 seconds faster than Heintz. Wilkins, who started almost a minute after Griffin and ran the first 10K slower than Heintz, never saw Griffin during the race. Heintz did not see Griffin past the 10K mark until after the race was over, if then. Griffin ran a fast first half marathon, clocking 1:26:42. At that point she had a net time advantage of 1:26 on Heintz and 2:54 on Wilkins. By 30K, Heintz's net time lead over Wilkins was down to 36 seconds. Wilkins covered that stretch almost as fast as Griffin did. Wilkins came into her own after the 30 Km mat. She ran the next 10K 1:27 faster than Heintz, moving from 36 seconds behind on net time to 51 seconds ahead. Griffin was also starting to feel the effects of her early pace; it took her 28 seconds longer to cover that 10K than Heintz, so almost two minutes longer than Wilkins. As a result, Griffin's lead on Wilkins was down to 56 seconds, 2:48:24 to 2:49:16. Heintz was 51 seconds behind Wilkins and did not accelerate over the final 2.195 Km enough to contend for 1st. Wilkins continued to run faster than Griffin over that 2 Km but did not have a kick that would cut substantially into her lead. Wilkins took another 8 seconds off of Griffin's lead; that left Griffin the winner at 2:57:57 [9], with Wilkins just 44 seconds back as 2nd American in 2:58:41[10]

Kelly Griffin center on a shakeout run the day before the Berlin Marathon, with two
other marathoners Photo Credit: K Griffin post on Strava

Heintz, running tough through the finish, was 3rd American at 2:59:37 [11]. Griffin ran 2:43:16 at the California International Marathon in December 2021, a 1:19:02 HM in Indianapolis in fall 2022 and a 1:23:19 HM at the Trial of Miles Project 13.1 in March. Wilkins ran 2:57:03 in that same 2021 CIM as Griffin, following it with a 2:58:37 in London the following spring and a 3:00:51 at Boston a year later. Heintz ran 2:55:58 at Chicago in 2019 and 2:57:33 at TCS NYC in 2021. Griffin and Wilkins were probably 45 at Berlin, with Heintz, most likely 46. That makes their age grade scores: 80.19%, 79.86%, and 80.25% respectively.

Kelly Griffin 2:57:57     Lindsay Wilkins 2:58:41     Laura Heintz 2:59:37

50-54 Sharon Lemberger started at 9:17:27, with Mary Schact crossing the starting line almost 4 minutes later, and Sarah Trigg 42 seconds behind Schact. Lemberger finished 12th at Club Cross San Francisco last December in her last year in the 45-49 division. Her last three marathons are CIM in December 2021, a 2:56:53 for 3rd in 45-49; a 2:57:31 at London last October for 5th in 45-49; and, on an off day, a 3:02:50 at Boston last April. Here, of course, she is in a new age division. Schacht's fastest marathon in the last five years is 3:10:57 in Paris. Trigg came in well back from Lemberger in last fall's London Marathon, almost 3 minutes slower than Schacht's Paris time. This was not a division where someone came from behind. Lemberger ran the first 10 K in 42:23, with Trigg at 43:36, and Schact 45:07. Lemberger was well in front; Trigg ran fast enough to be ahead of Schacht in real time as well as net. Lemberger hit the half marathon in 1:29:36, over 2 minutes ahead of Trigg. Trigg ran 1:43 faster to the halfway mat than Schacht. The only difference the rest of the way was the size of the gaps. Lemberger pulled away, taking first American honors in 2:59:56 [4]. After falling over 2 minutes behind Trigg at the 30K, Schacht actually pulled to within a minute at 40K. But Trigg answered over the last 2.195K; Trigg ended as 2nd American in 3:10:03 [16], 1:23 ahead of Schacht's 3:11:26 [18]. 

Sarah Trigg on a Training Run Photo Credit: Holt

Mary King, who finished 3rd at the 2022 Masters 12 Km Championship in the 50-54 division, finished as 4th American 51 seconds behind Schacht in 3:12:17 [19]. Lemberger, 50, scored a PLP of 83.98%.

Sharon Lemberger 2:59:56     Sarah Trigg 3:10:03     Mary Schacht 3:11:26

55-59 Jennifer Harvey Central Park TC won a terrific duel with Fiona Bayly at the Masters Road Mile Championships in Indianapolis in June, setting a new American Record. Perhaps known better as a track athlete, Harvey has also turned herself into a marathoner. Harvey finished 2nd in the 50-54 division at Chicago 5 years ago with a 3:11:53 effort. Since then, the only long race I find is a 1:28:17 at the Brooklyn HM this past May. Harvey started at 9:17:50, followed 1:09 later by Susan Mix Tracksmith Boston Hares; Helen Degennaro Runners Roost Lakewood started at 9:32:00. Mix has extensive marathon experience, including a 3:03:31 at Boston in fall 2021 and a 3:06:51 in Philadelphia a month later. She ran 2:57:11 last October in London where she took 3rd in this division. 

Susan Mix waiting for her start time at the Berlin Marathon Photo Credit: Strava post by S Mix

Degennaro took 1st in the 50-54 division at the 2022 LA Marathon in 3:25:35:18, and then 2nd in 55-59 at NYC last November in 3:25:20. Harvey had a good starting position and ran sensibly, hitting the first 10K in 43:59, allowing Mix to carve out an early1:47 lead on net time. That also put her ahead of Harvey on the course. Mix had no problem in the division, crossing the halfway mat in 1:29:41 with a net time lead of almost 4 minutes. Mix finished with a net time of 3:07:47 [3], 4:24 faster than Harvey, claiming the title of first American. 

Susan Mix post-race - 2023 Berlin Marathon -- 1st American, 3rd Overall Photo Credit: Strava post by S Mix

Harvey's 3:12:11 [4] kept Degennaro 6 minutes back. Degennaro finished as 3rd American in 3:18:31 [8]. Mix, 56, earned a PLP of 86.98%.

Susan Mix 3:07:47     Jennifer Harvey 3:12:11     Helen Degennaro 3:18:31

60-64 This division enjoyed the smallest net time difference between 1st and 3rd American. They did not start close together though. They were competing with themselves, as is almost always the case in the marathon, and found out later how they did. Sue George started at 9:23:36, with Jin Zhu starting more than 8 minutes later. Alma Arredondo started 13 minutes after Zhu. It is quite amazing that all three finished within 34 seconds of one another. Both George and Arredondo sped off for the first 10K, with George's net time at 48:12 and Arredondo's just 21 seconds slower. Zhu eased into the race with a 52:01. George crossed the halfway mat with a 1:42:05 net time. Arredondo was a minute slower, with Zhu over 5 more minutes slower at 1:48:40. By 30K, a different story was emerging. From 20K to 30K, Arredondo's pace was essentially steady, dropping slightly from 51:01 for the second 10K to 49:15 for the third 10K. At the same time, George slowed from 48:30 to 51:42 between the 2nd and 3rd 10K. Arredondo now had a 1:14 faster 30K net time than George. Zhu was still over 6 minutes slower than George. George continued to slow from 30K to 40K, taking 54:31, but Arredondo slowed even more, clocking 55:24 for that segment. Zhu, on the other hand had held back enough to lower her time on that segment to 50:00, making up 4:31 on George and 5:24 on Arredondo. But Arredondo still had the best net time at 3:22:44; George was now only 11 seconds slower and moving faster. Zhu was moving the fastest of the three but was still almost two minutes slower than George with just 2.195 km to go. 

Jin Zhu poses in front of Brandenburg Gate the evening after the Berlin Marathon Photo Credit: Strava post by J Zhu

Zhu ran that last segment in 10:01, 1:48 faster than George. But George had built enough of a lead that she claimed first American at 3:34:44 [7], with 8 seconds to spare. 

Sue George celebrating after the race with son, Nick left  who PR'd with a 2:48, and Rick Lee right (See M60-64) Photo Credit: Strava post by S George

Zhu ran 3:34:52 [8], 26 seconds faster than Arredondo's 3:35:18 [9]. George's PLP at age 61 is 81.56%.

Sue George 3:34:44     Jin Zhu 3:34:52     Alma Arredondo 3:35:18

65-69 Christine Kennedy, originally from Ireland, set a slew of American records over the years when she resided in Southern California. A few years back, she relocated back 'over the pond' to be closer to her daughters. She retains her US citizenship; she competed for the USA at the WMA Championships in Torun, Poland this spring. She claimed a 65-69 Silver Medal in the Cross Country event and won the Half Marathon, setting a new AR in the process. The owner of the 65-69 AR going into Berlin was Joan Benoit Samuelson, who ran 3:20:20 at the London Marathon last fall. Kennedy would need to average under 7:40/mile [or 4:45/km]. That meant, in terms of the splits offered by the race, Kennedy would need to average under 47:30 for every ten km segment. If Kennedy's plan was to put seconds in the bank against a slowdown in the final 12.195 km, she achieved that. She crossed the first 10 Km mat in 45:43, putting 1:47 in the bank. The next ten km was a little slower at 46:11 but still another 1:19 into the bank. Her net time at the half was 1:36:55, more than 3 minutes under her target. And the 3rd 10K segment was still under the target at 46:31. Put those 29 seconds in the bank as well, for a total of 3:35 to play with, heading into the dreaded 4th segment when things sometimes go awry. Kennedy did slow in that 4th segment but not disastrously so. She only needed to withdraw 1:05 of her savings. The last 2.195 kilometers included no surprises. Kennedy finished at 3:17:38 [1], over two and a half minutes under the American Record! 

Christine Kennedy battled the wind to take the 65-69 Half Marathon Gold Medal for Team USA at the 2023 WMA Indoor Championships in March in Torun Poland Photo Credit: Todd Straka

It is a rare privilege to break a record set by an icon such as Samuelson. Kennedy was one of only two American women to score an outright win in Berlin! To top it off, her age grade, at age 68, was 98.58%!

Angela Cason, who finished 6th at Boston, 4th at Chicago and 12th at New York in this 65-69 division, was almost a half hour behind Kennedy's record-breaking pace at the end. But her 3:47:07 [5] bettered her time at the three American majors last year. Theresa Burst, who has run the Boston Marathon the last three years, was third American with a 3:56:01 [7].

Christine Kennedy 3:17:38     Angela Cason 3:47:07     Theresa Burst 3:56:01

70-74 Merry Dearmon won the 65-69 division of the 2022 USATF Masters 10 Mile Championships in Sacramento in 1:15:36. Dearmon finished 9th in 60-64 at Boston in 2018 but ran 3:22:01 to finish 2nd in 60-64 later that year at CIM in Sacramento. In February of 2022, she won the 65-69 division with a 3:27:54 at the Mesa Marathon. Grace Wasielewski finished 2nd in 65-69 the last two years at Chicago, with a 3:36:48 in 2021 and a 3:34:31 in 2022. Diane Peterson ran NYC in 2021, Chicago in 2022 and Boston in 2023, finishing 10th, 8th and 32nd respectively. All three were probably hoping for better times out of Berlin. They ran true to expectations relative to one another. Dearmon clocked 50:36 for the first 10K, with Wasielewski 3 minutes slower and Peterson another 3.5 minutes slower to the timing mat. The gaps back to Peterson grew during the race, but Wasielewski actually pulled a little closer to Dearmon through the Half Marathon at least. Dearmon's net time was 1:51:37, with Wasielewski just 2:23 slower. Something slowed Dearmon down in that 2nd 10K but whatever it was, it apparently passed. Dearmon sped up considerably, dropping her 10K split from almost 56 minutes for the 2nd 10k to 53:27 for the third one. Her net time was again more than three minutes faster than Wasielewski's. Dearmon really put the hammer down in the 4th 10K segment cutting another two minutes off her split. Wasielewski continued her solid pacing but was now almost 8 minutes back at the 40K mat. Dearmon flew through to the finish with a 3:41:35 [2], 1st American to finish. Wasielewski was 9 minutes slower, clocking 3:50:38 [4]

Grace Wasielewski Photo Credit:

with Peterson 3rd American at 4:28:07 [7]. If Dearmon was 70 when she ran Berlin, then her age grade is 90.85%. 

Merry Dearmon 3:41:35     Grace Wasielewski 3:50:38     Diane Peterson 4:28:07

75-79 Tamerra Buckhanan passed the half marathon mark at 2:46:54 net time. She continued on at a good pace, finishing as first American in 5:49:48 [7]. Sara Dutton took 7 minutes longer on net time to reach the halfway point and finished as 2nd American at 6:16:40 [10]. If Buckhanan were 79 on race day in Berlin, her age grade would have been 68.88%.

Tamerra Buckhanan 5:49:48     Sara Dutton 6:16:40

80+ Hansi Rigney was the only American entered in this division. But she defeated one British and two German athletes to take first place overall. Valerie Brown of Great Britain was the only serious threat to Rigney. Brown crossed the starting line at 10:32:00, with Rigney crossing a minute and a half later. Brown was 1:40 faster on net time to the first 10K mat. Rigney slowed slightly over the next 10K, taking a minute longer on that segment compared to the first 10K. Brown, however, slowed by over 5 minutes and found her net time at the 20K mat a minute slower than Rigney's. Rigney steadily increased the net time gap and must have made up Brown's head start of 1:31 and passed her on the course just before the 30K timing mat. 

Hansi Rigney Right running with a friend - January 2017 Photo Credit- FB post by H Rigney

Rigney poured it on from there, winning by over 14 minutes! Her winning time was 5:07:30 [1]. Rigney was 81 when she won this race; her age grade score was 83.09%.

Hansi Rigney 5:07:30

It was a great day for Kennedy! An American Record is a wonderful achievement, especially in the Marathon. Nur did not have the day he was hoping for but had the satisfaction of finishing 1st in his division in Berlin. He will turn his attention to other distances for a period. Dykes had the frustration of seeing the AR slipping away when he was in sight of the finish line. But he had already entered Chicago, just two weeks later. He would take another shot at the AR! Lee would also have another chance for a good marathon time at Chicago. Many other runners enjoyed superb performances! Despite being only two weeks after Berlin, a number of Masters athletes, in addition to Dykes and Lee, signed up for both. That will be the next fall 2023 Marathon report.

No comments:

Post a Comment